Survivor: The Coffee Shop

So far on our travels from New Jersey to the West Coast, we’ve managed pretty well for ourselves. 

We’ve been lucky enough to find some great, free (extra great) travel stops in quiet enough locations that were also clean and safe.  

We had all of the things you would want from a place where you’re half naked in your car with nothing but a makeshift sheet turned curtain separating you from the potential creepers of the night. 

When Our Road Trip Hit a Road Block

However, once we hit Oregon, that easy and comfortable option came to a screeching halt.  The drive into Oregon was incredible and we didn’t even get to see a thing. 

Washington state was full of great places, but for us, our last stop, Olympia left much to be desired. 

Around midnight, instead of spending another night there, we decided to drive the two hours to head to Portland.

Until recently, my only impressions of Oregon came from my elementary school memories in the computer lab where we would spend hours enveloped in the good ol’ adventures of the Oregon Trail. 

Neither Boris nor I have ever visited and we weren’t even on the Portlandia bandwagon. However, for some reason it was calling to both of us.

Oregon at Last

After a few exposures, we quickly came to the understanding that it was just a place to be weird.  And, that’s definitely up our alley. 

So, needless to say, we were excited to get there and see first hand what it was that we had been missing. 

The first stop on our Portland journey was at a truck stop about twenty minutes from the city.  The reviews looked great but the place looked even better.  It had a resort type feel with all the amenities you could ask for. 

It looked almost too good to be true. 

We parked and were about ready to do our nightly prep routine – where we transfer all of our belongings from the back of the car (our bed) to the front seats – which we’ve managed to work down to a science.  Instead, we decided to check things out first. 

Definitely Too Good to be True

As we walked inside, I noticed a security officer checking the parked cars with flashlights.  At that point, we realized that it in fact was too good to be true. 

It turned out that Portland’s truck stops are only for trucks…go figure!  Most of the states we had passed through seemed to have an abundance of them to choose from, but not Oregon. 

So, off we went with no other plans or ideas.  As we arrived in the city, we decided to find a 24-hour coffee shop.  Which, luckily for us, Portland actually had! 

Why not get some work done while we figure out what to do?  So, we found a spot that looked perfect: open all night, great Wi-Fi, comfy couches, and organic food.  We couldn’t ask for more… except for maybe a nap.

Hoping to Finally Catch a Few ZzZ’s

We had planned to scope out the situation and maybe we would be slick enough to catch a few Z’s before anyone noticed. 

But, no such luck. 

Fortunately, we were able to learn from someone else’s attempt before we had the opportunity to be publicly humiliated. 

Another guy came not too long after us and sat right behind me.  So uncomfortably close that I actually switched seats.  

Although, in retrospect, he must’ve just been looking for a person to hide behind and I was the reason for his discovery. 


Anyways, he spent the entire time alternating between dozing off and getting yelled at by the manager. 

Boris and I came to the conclusion that he probably got into a fight with his girlfriend or boyfriend and came to the coffee shop for refuge.  And here is this manager standing between this poor young man and his sleep.

How Long is Too Long to Spend at a Coffee Shop?

As the hours of the early morning approached, we found ourselves looking around and noticing a group of 6 or 7 familiar faces.  We seemed to have bonded over what we felt to be an uncomfortably long time to spend at a coffee shop. 

But, hey, maybe this was normal here? 

Either way, we loved it.  We felt comfortable and a part of a community. 

We would gaze around the room and fall upon a sympathetic glance as we looked at each other through half-squinted red eyes. 

“Let’s see who outlasts the group”, we thought, as we started to feel like we were starting some fun purpose to keep us going through the night.  At this point, we had been awake for almost 24 hours – with no sleep and no place to go. 

And, then, there were four.

When you’re running on no sleep, 3 cups of espresso, and have been staring at your laptop for 8 hours, it starts to feel like an accomplishment to outlast the fellow patrons.  It felt like a coffee shop version of Survivor. 

Who Will Make It to the End? 

Three men were dispersed around the room looking intently into their computer screens.  And, then, there was sleeping beauty, still dozing off, still getting yelled at by the manager. 

The sun finally crept in through the windows as the next round of employees came in for their early shifts. 

“Maybe I could work here,” I thought.  “I’ve sure been here long enough.  But, they probably wouldn’t hire a girl who spends all night at a coffee shop, right?  Or…maybe that’s exactly the type of girl that they would hire!”

It’s crazy the type of thought patterns your mind creates when you’re sleep deprived and hyped up on caffeine.  As my thoughts wandered off to unknown territories, I noticed that we were the last ones standing. 

Everyone had left, even our sleep-deprived comrade. 

WE MADE IT! Mission accomplished.

The coffee shop was now filling up with early rising newcomers and it was our cue to leave.  So, off we went to continue our search for sleep.

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  1. What a cool experience! I can’t say I have ever spent the night in a coffee shop! That’s a shame the truck stop was only for trucks though! Hope you are enjoying the road trip life! But I must ask, what was the coffee like?

  2. I must say reading this when sleepy made me want to go to sleep so bad haha! I know the feeling when you want to just park your car and crawl into bed, but can’t because someone is checking the cars with a flashlight! I’d love to find out what happened next and where you got to get some sleep in the end! And well done for staying up this long ha!

  3. Always enjoy a personal travel story – with next to none photos – in a world where listicles (and I am guilty of that too) are becoming the norm. A road trip across/in American is such a coming-of-age thing and with it’s vastness and change in scenery and culture (to an extent) a true travel experience. Reading through your description and observations was really refreshing and as they say some of the stories happen late at night.

  4. I was recently in Portland and definitely dived into the coffee culture there (because, let’s face it — I’m obsessed) but I had NO idea they had a 24 hour coffee shop! Sounds like the best place to spend the night besides a hotel of course! Glad you made it safely through the night and had the best type of shop to keep you up and awake until the wee hours of the morning!

  5. Haha, great story! I’m sad you didn’t like Olympia, but glad you made an amazing coffee shop discovery in Portland-and outlasted all the other people!

  6. you had a tough but interesting day i must say…..and its good to know that there are some 24hrs coffee shops which I wish we would have at my place too for the people on road trip.

  7. I don’t know much about Oregon either but if it’s a place to be weird, that’s my kinda place! I’ve not come across many 24/7 coffee shops in my travels, that’s a feat to spend 8 hours in any placee, ahhh it’s what travel stories are made of, keep them coming!

  8. Oh what a trip this was! No sleep and no place to go for 24 hours! That is so crazy.

  9. A coffee shop that’s available for you 24/7…that’s a wonderful thing. Nice find indeed.

  10. Congrats on outlasting the other highly caffeinated folk!

  11. That was a long night and surely very tiring. Good thing you had enough cups of coffee as your companion to keep yourselves awake

  12. Nice post, if it’s coffee your looking for, The West coast if the right place to be. I’ve always know Oregon and Washington State to have plenty of coffee cafes 🙂 What a beautiful drive, Haven’t been in years but remember how gorgeous it was !

  13. What a giggle, although these days I am way to old to be up all night in a coffee shop…sigh..sometimes I wish I was younger. I have heard Portland is a great place to visit though, loads of food trucks and lots of foodie destinations not to mention the scenery is said to be superb. Enjoy your visit and I hope you find better places to sleep, lol.

  14. We love road trips and night outs but a trip with nowhere to sleep sounds terrible. We knew about 24 hrs cafes but this idea never struck us. What an experience to remember!

  15. So you were the winners of the Survivor Coffee Shop – congrats! I equate this story to desperately looking for a fast food restaurant to use the toilet! 😉

  16. I used to love playing Oregon Trail in computer class! I’m dying to visit Portland- really great post! super entertaining!!

  17. I love road trips but they are always so much more fun and memorable with crazy experiences. I can’t believe you spent a whole night in a coffee shop lucky it was 24hrs 🙂 I would of gone mad sitting in there the whole time or just fallen asleep. I never knew that about Truck stops, I am Australian so I don’t know if the same rules apply there.

  18. I found this post so entertaining and easy to read! Oregon is my home state and Portland is a special place for sure. I hope you continue to enjoy it and let me know if you need any recommendations! (soooo many good restaurants!). Happy Travels, I look forward to following your adventure 🙂

  19. What an experience, haha! I love when cities have 24 hour coffee shops, although I’ve never tried sleeping in one! Portland seems like a very interesting place 🙂

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